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Halifax County commissioners today unanimously agreed to put proposed jail expansion plans out for bid.

Ian Bumgarner, the county’s senior management analyst, told the board the plans are currently under review by the state Department of Health and Human Services. 

The county is hoping to put the proposed $12.234 million project out for bids by the middle of the month after state approval.

He said the county would be looking at limited obligation bonds to finance the facility if commissioners give the go-ahead to move forward with the project after bids are reviewed.

“I have faith and confidence we will have a solution,” Sheriff Wes Tripp said after the board approved sending the project out for bids, “But I want to see ground being broken.”

The last time commissioners approved letting the project out for bids, the board ended up nixing the project.

There was some discussion after Bumgarner’s presentation about the possibility of looking at Odom prison outside Jackson for the project.

Tripp said, however, Odom is one of the oldest prisons in the state. “You have transportation issues. You have to enter into a regional concept which means you don’t have total control.”

He said the state has different requirements than the sheriff’s association.

Commissioner Patrick Qualls said he would still be interested in at least exploring Odom.

Commissioner Rives Manning said he believed there would be different guidelines and using the Northampton County facility would most likely mean operation “under the most stringent guidelines. There’s probably asbestos and lead paint.”

Correctional officers at Odom have been reassigned to other facilities in the region such as Pasquotank, Warren, and Nash counties as well as Caledonia Correctional Institution. 

But the state told the Ahoskie Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in September after six months, the plan will be re-evaluated and the Department of Public Safety may decide to tweak it.

Renewed jail talks resurfaced in February and come as the sheriff’s office continues to operate under a state-imposed cap of 85 inmates — 77 men and eight women.

In a matter related to the jail expansion project, Tripp presented commissioners with costs associated with adding 135 beds.

With revenue and cost savings associated with renting out bed space to other counties and the state, the budget would increase by $770,162. That figure includes the total costs of adding salaries for 25 additional personnel; equipment, training and inmate supplies; food costs and medical costs. Without housing of state and inmates from other counties, that figure is $1,710,370.

However, Tripp factored in a revenue generator based on setting aside 40 beds of the 135 for rental to the State Misdemeanor Program — where non-violent offenders serve their time — using a rate of $40 a day. For 365 days that total would equal $584,000.

In his presentation he said the county could add other revenue by housing inmates from other counties at a rate of $50 per day.

Currently, the sheriff’s office is paying an average of $356,208 for housing, personnel and travel costs for special-out inmates each year.

Using the State Misdemeanor Program revenue plus housing inmates from other counties would generate at least $940,208 in revenue and cost savings.